A ‘new, blue Brexit dawn’?
The ‘sources’ are back in business as the PM welcomed his new intake of MPs to the HoC yesterday. They had some very interesting information to drop into the eager ears of our MSM writers – about how Johnson is planning to get Brexit done. More on that below.
There were also the small matters of the new cabinet – much as the old one – and the thoughts of Johnson and his government about whom to send to the HoL. Having had to spend hours and hours on watching the Parliament TV Channel, and then comparing what I saw with how it was reported, my faith in our MSM has become subterranean. Therefore I take the ‘news’ as reported in the MSM with a very large pinch of salt.
The latest example was that breathless titbit that Zac Goldsmith would be elevated to the HoL so he can become minister for green crappery. Instead, he’ll get ‘Universities and Science’ while Ms Nicky Morgan will become ennobled and will retain her post as minister for Culture. Nobody ‘in the know’ knew …
Here are two other, brief observations on what to expect in this new HoC. The Speaker, to be elected this afternoon, is generally thought to be Sir Lindsay Hoyle. That’ll make for a more civilised tone in the Chamber although entertainment will certainly be provided by the SNP contingent with their incessant cry of ‘freedom for Sco’land’. Now that both Kenneth Clarke and Dennis Skinner are gone, there was the urgent question of who’d be ‘Father of the House’, i.e. the longest-serving MP. Many of us thought that we’d be in for a sex change, with a ‘Mother of the House’ in the form of Ms Harriet Harman MP (Lab) – but no, a ‘Father’ it is, and it’s Sir Peter Bottomley.
The other news, discreetly buried by the MSM, is that Jacob Rees-Mogg remains Leader of the House. The MSM speculated that he’d surely be ‘out’, but he’s back, certainly until that February reshuffle, and Johnson’s Brexit proposals mean he’s going to have his work cut out.
Now the main Brexit news! The MSM, headlining the PM’s plans, all seem to be somewhat dazed by his announcement of what’s in store. Johnson’s proposals are certainly stunning and are politically astute:
“The Prime Minister’s first legislative act of the new Parliament, following Thursday’s Queen’s Speech, will be to table a newly-reworked Brexit bill on Friday without any of the “sweeteners” which were added to satisfy Tory rebels and Labour Leavers when it was put to a vote in October. The vote on the Bill will force Labour – and Labour leadership contenders – to decide whether to continue opposing Brexit, as they did during the election, or recognise the will of voters by backing Mr Johnson’s deal. The Labour MPs vying to succeed Jeremy Corbyn risk being forever reminded that they opposed Brexit if they vote against the Bill.” (paywalled link)
Very clever, that: the plaything called ‘Brexit’ is back in play, this time being used to clobber Labour and Remain. Here are the actual changes:
“The most significant change will be the removal of clause 30 of the Bill, which allowed for the transition period to be extended beyond Dec 31 next year if MPs voted for it. The primary aim of the bill is to approve Britain’s exit from the EU on January 31, giving the Government 11 months to negotiate a trade deal with Brussels during a transition period. […] Mr Johnson was adamant during the election campaign that he would not extend the transition period, meaning Britain will trade with the EU on World Trade Organisation rules from 2021 if necessary. He argues that unless the EU is working to a hard deadline it will inevitably try to keep Britain tied to its current trading arrangements for as long as possible.” (paywalled link)
Someone has cottoned onto M Barnier’s strategy and cut him off at the knees – very satisfactory. There’s more:
“A clause that gave MPs the right to dictate the Government’s negotiating position on trade will also be scrapped, and the new Bill will “tidy up” the statute book to get rid of the so-called Benn Act, which forced the Prime Minister to extend Brexit beyond Oct 31, and the Cooper-Letwin Act, which paved the way for the Benn Act.” (paywalled link)
With his majority, and in the absence of Grieve, Gauke, Hammond, Clarke and Letwin, Johnson ought to be able to push this new Bill through. I do wonder if Johnson and his minions gave a sneak preview of this plan to certain politicians of TBP to entice them to support the Tories …
Other, non-paywalled reports can be found here and here, while RemainCentral (this ‘rejoin’ thingie hasn’t taken off) reports diligently, with gritted teeth, with a warning of what Brussels and M Barnier might thinL
“Boris Johnson will redraw his Brexit bill this week to make it illegal for parliament to extend the transition period — a move that will put him in direct conflict with Brussels. […] But it is the new clause in the withdrawal agreement bill to outlaw an extension of the transition period beyond the end of next year that will be most eye-catching. Britain and the EU can agree jointly to extend the transition period for one or two years before a deadline of July 1, 2020. The Conservative manifesto, however, made an explicit commitment that Mr Johnson’s government “will not extend the implementation period beyond 2020”. The prime minister’s decision to enshrine that pledge in law would make an agreement to extend the transition period illegal. […] Mr Barnier told diplomats recently: “With regards to this agreement, we will not get everything done in 11 months. We will do all we can — we won’t do it all. It is unrealistic that a global negotiation can be done in 11 months, so we can’t do it all.” (link, paywalled)
It’s the usual Remain moan that ‘Brussels won’t like it’. M Barnier’s remarks come under ‘it’s too difficult so we won’t even try’. We’ll have to wait and see who will face M Barnier across the table from our side.
Regarding the PM’s proposals for the HoL (e.g. here and paywalled here): he’s not planning to send old politicians to crowd those red benches. One proposed name caught my eye: Martin Howe QC. Hardcore cynic that I am, I thought immediately: now we know why he became such ardent supporter of Johnson’s WAIB, in spite of having shredded it with well-founded criticism!
Meanwhile, across the Channel, there’s the latest interpretation of Johnson’s win, picked up by the DT’s Brussels correspondent:
“Brexit transformed the Brussels power dynamics, with the traditional British voice for free trade and handbrake on closer EU integration falling away. […] But Brexit remains about the only thing the EU has been consistently unified on since 2016. And diplomats in Brussels increasingly see Germany as absent when it comes to making the grand political decisions the EU needs to push forward with its project. France and Germany, the traditional twin motors of EU policy making, are notably divided with relations between Emmanuel Macron and Mrs Merkel strained. Free-trading nations such as The Netherlands and Denmark are wary of a lurch towards French-style protectionism after Brexit.” (paywalled link)
It’s too early to speculate about the possible consequences this shift in ‘Brussels power dynamics’ might have on the negotiations with Barnier. Will Johnson’s new Brexit Legislation mean that the rump EU will again unite behind their old demand to see us punished? Or will the ascendancy of Macron finally put the backs up of those other EU member states? Here’s the conclusion of that report:
“Brexit did much to suppress discontent with the EU across Europe. But memories of the painful negotiations will fade and the EU’s divisions and challenges will remain, mutate or change. If, in 20 to 30 years time, a competitive Britain can demonstrate a viable alternative model to EU membership, Brussels could face more referendums on Europe.”(paywalled link)
That’s very pessimistic indeed! We may well see that Brexit could unravel the EU as it now is within the next five years. And anyway – aren’t we all supposed to be dead in 30 years, according to that Greta-prediction?
However, I’m wary of this latest Brexit ‘new dawn’. There are lots of old sayings which apply, the one about counting chickens comes to mind – and the one about the proof of the pudding … So we’re back on Brexit Watch and will
Photo by blachswan